Editor’s Note: Missioner Erin McHugh reflects on her mission in Guatemala at Valley of the Angels school and the relationships she has built within the community.

I have recently been reflecting on my original call to mission, and specifically my call back into mission after my first experience in Jamaica.  When I discerned to be re-commissioned to Guatemala I was so scared. I felt like it was a bigger leap of faith than my original commitment. However, I had a deepened sense of peace and trust. I was simply setting my feet upon the road, and following wherever God called me.  I didn’t know where I was going, I had no idea what to expect, as I had never been to Central America or a Spanish speaking country, but I still felt called to set my feet upon the road and follow where God was leading me.

My first year of mission here at Valley, I dove head first into everything. I fell in love with Valley, the kids, garden, bakery, English classes, missions, etc. I wanted to do it all because I didn’t know where God was leading me.  I was learning so much about myself, and opening my heart wider to love and to deeper giving.  

In this second year, as I have begun to form deeper relationships, I was afraid to be vulnerable. I was afraid to share myself because I didn’t want to hurt the people around me. I was afraid I was going to cause them pain because I didn’t fully understand their stories. However, people would come to me and want me to comfort them, give them advice. They began sharing their stories, their heartaches, and all the ways they have grown here at Valley.  So I have reached out and taken them by the hand. I have begun walking with them on their journeys and I feel so incredibly blessed and honored to be able to walk with them.

In the second half of this year, I have been experiencing more darkness, exhaustion, emotional, mental and physical depletion. However, the Valley kids have been inviting me to rest and be with them. Not always having to go, go, go. We have been sharing life together, and in doing so I have regained my strength. I am seeing their deeper beauty and truths.

Each day I am still tried and depleted, but something keeps me going… the deep love I have for these kids. This kind of love is the kind where my heart aches for them. The kind of love where my heart continually leads me back to them. The kind of love that desires to give them the best opportunities for a better life.  Because of this love, I can’t imagine my life without them. This love has grown deeper, and has widened my heart to a pure and unconditional love.

Now, I have been living here for almost 2 years, and we have all become one. I don’t see our differences.  I don’t focus on the pain I could cause others by being vulnerable. I am not afraid to love and to love deeply! All the children here are all beautifully shining brightly, like the sun! We are all beaming with love and joy. I’m so incredibly grateful for how God has allowed me to grow in love on my mission journey and as I continue, I am reminded that it is all about the Love- God is just calling me to love and be loved in this beautiful place.

Reflection Question: What fears are you called to let go of in order to fully love and embrace those around you?